Veterans Law Library
A Comprehensive Collection of
Materials Relating to the Veterans
Benefits Adjudication Process
Case Law Sources
Although the U.S. Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, it has rarely ruled
on issues of veterans law.  Below are the most notable cases from recent decades:

    Shinseki v. Sanders, 129 S. Ct. 1696, 556 U.S. ___ (2009) (holding that
    veterans benefits cases follow the ordinary rule that appellant's generally have
    the burden of proving that a procedural error was prejudicial).

    Brown v. Gardner, 513 U.S. 115 (1994) (abrogated by statute) (holding that
    38 U.S.C. § 1151 (1994) provides compensation for any veteran injured by
    VA medical care, regardless of whether VA was negligent).

    Traynor v. Turnage, 485 U.S. 535 (1988) (holding that Congress may deny
    benefits based upon a veteran's alcoholism).

    Walters v. Nat'l Ass’n of Radiation Survivors, 473 U.S. 305 (1985) (holding
    that veterans do not have a due process right to hire attorneys to help them
    file benefits claims).

    Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361 (1974) (holding that equal protection is not
    violated by denying veterans benefits to conscientious objectors who perform
    alternative service).
The Federal Circuit has limited jurisdiction to review legal rulings by the Court of
Appeals for Veterans Claims in veterans benefits cases, but is not permitted to
review factual determinations or the application of law to fact.  38 U.S.C. § 7292.  
Administrative Procedure Act (APA) challenges to VA rulemaking may also be
brought directly to the Federal Circuit.
The CAVC is an Article I court that conducts independent judicial review of claims
that have been denied by VA.  The Secretary may not appeal to the CAVC.  The
CAVC may decide cases either by a single judge or by a panel.  Panel decisions are
published in the Veterans Appeals Reporter and are binding on VA and the CAVC.
Other Federal Courts
A few groups have pursued class action lawsuits against VA.  One recent decision is
Veterans for Common Sense v. Peake, 563 F. Supp. 2d 1049 (N.D. Cal. 2008).  
Although the judge rejected the suit, the 44-page decision discusses evidence from
VA officials in detail and makes numerous findings about the system.

That ruling was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  The
Ninth Circuit issued a 140-page opinion on May 11, 2011, which held that VA's
systems for handling the mental health needs of veterans with PTSD and for
processing appeals of regional office decisions on benefits claims.  The opinion
indicates that the district court may need to take over VA operations to remedy the
violations.  [
download .pdf]
Recent Federal Circuit decisions are here.  The veterans benefits cases are
listed under the origin "CAVC".

Upcoming arguments at the Federal Circuit are listed
here.  The veterans
benefits cases have "CVA" after the docket number.

Audio of Federal Circuit arguments is available

Statistics on the Federal Circuit's workload are available

Recent CAVC decisions are available here.

Upcoming arguments at the CAVC are listed

Audio of CAVC arguments is available

Statistics on the CAVC's workload are available

“The willingness
with which our
young people are
likely to serve in
any war, no matter
how justified, shall
be directly
proportional as to
how they perceive
veterans of earlier
wars were treated
and appreciated by
this country.”

George Washington